By Hugh Parker
Sonoma County is famous as one of the largest wine producing regions in the world. Sonoma, located in the southwestern portion of California’s wine-making region, has always been known for its fantastic wine. In the 50 years following Prohibition, Sonoma county wine production faltered. With the growing consumer interest in wine, Sonoma experienced a dramatic rebound in the 1980’s, with the establishment of over 125 wineries. Today, with over 250 distinct vineyards, the Valley produces an enormous amount of high quality wine. In 2004, almost 200,000 tons of wine grapes were harvested, worth more than three hundred million dollars.
While wine is the main economic engine of this California county, it’s certainly not the only attraction. Beautiful landscapes provide scenic vistas and hiking. Sonoma County also has great beaches that are less crowded than many other destinations. Finally, the Sonoma and Mayacamas Mountain Ranges create a sharp contrast with the Valley, adding to the spectacle. All of these visual factors have contributed to making Sonoma a center of art, with galleries and museums continually opening.
The most visited art museum in Sonoma County is the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. The museum is located at 551 Broadway St. in Sonoma, only a half block south of Sonoma Plaza. Admission is 5 dollars during the week, but free on Sundays. Attracting more than 100,000 visitors since 1999, the SVMA exhibits incorporate work from local, national, and international artists across various medias including paint, photography, and sculpture. The SVMA also stages a number of events in the Sonoma Valley throughout the year. With more than 1,000 members, the SVMA is the largest visual organization in the San Francisco North Bay region.
Another option is the Sonoma County Museum, located in the city of Santa Rosa. This museum is dedicated to the rich history and art of Sonoma County. The most prized possession of the Sonoma County Museum is the collection of work by renowned artists Christo and Jean-Claude, donated in 2001 by Tom Golden.
The Sonoma Valley is also home to an ever-expanding collection of art galleries. These galleries serve different functions. Some provide an outlet for local artists to display their work, while others sell fine art. In addition, some vineyards also house an art gallery on the grounds.In such galleries it is common to see that the art will be wine related. Combining a day of wine tasting and art viewing is one of the most pleasant ways to experience the Sonoma Valley.
Coordinating much of this art is the Arts Council of Sonoma County. Its mission is to enrich the community of Sonoma County through art. The Arts Council accomplishes this through encouraging art programs in schools. This comes full circle when local artists remain or return to the area after further training to produce art. The Council also sponsors events throughout the year to bring artists together.
Sonoma County is known across the country for its wine production. Grapes aren’t the only things growing here, however. Visitors to the area can also enjoy the incredible nature-inspired art in galleries and museums across the county.
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